Matthew Sandora Inspires Students From the Lab to the Court

2 mins read

When not teaching AP Chemistry at M-A, Matthew Sandora is an avid volleyball coach both at his local high school, Andrew Hills, and under the league he created. 

Sandora grew up in Naperville, Illinois, and attended the University of Chicago, where he played volleyball and basketball while earning degrees in biochemistry and chemistry. He then went on to earn a Master of Science degree in immunology at Stanford. Sandora started playing volleyball in high school after a coach saw his high leaps during a basketball game. The sport became a life-long passion project of his. 

Only working part-time at M-A, Sandora spends his time outside of the C-Wing on the volleyball court, coaching high school varsity volleyball for Andrew Hills High School in the fall and at his self-made volleyball club.

“To play club volleyball, you usually need to have a lot of money. And the place where I coach is on the east side of San Jose, which is a very low-income area. So most of them can’t afford to even pay for tryouts, which are $50 per club,” Sandora said. 

Because many of the girls Sandora coaches had never been presented with an affordable opportunity to play volleyball prior to high school, the learning curve is often tougher for them to overcome. “We’re already behind, and we’re short in stature, so that makes it tough,” he said.

A major obstacle Sandora faces to providing an affordable opportunity to play is obtaining gear for his athletes. “Twenty years ago when I started the club, we had such little money that we had T-shirts, and we took a marker and made our own jerseys. We would wear those and show up to play with all the fancy kids with their perfect uniforms. They would laugh at us when we came in, and then we’d beat them and they’d be sad, which was always funny,” Sandora recalled.  

Sandora pays out of pocket for most of the tournament entry fees and rental bills. Oftentimes, club volleyball can cost up to $10,000 a year. “I probably charge my kids $25 to play. I don’t take any money myself.” 

One of Sandora’s favorite parts of coaching volleyball and creating a club to serve lower-income students is the culture that it promotes. “It’s really interesting because a lot of those girls that I coach, in their culture, girls aren’t supposed to play sports, they’re supposed to stay home and take care of their brothers and sisters. So I think it’s really cool that they have an opportunity to experience that,” he said.

“We’re probably never going to win the State Finals. But that’s not what I’m here to do. I’m here to give girls the chance to touch the ball, to develop the passion for a sport I fell in love with, and to defy the expectations everybody has of them, in the best way possible. It’s safe to say that as their coach, I’m inspired every day.”

Kate is a senior at M-A. She enjoys talking to people and hopes to write stories in which she can represent multiple groups and perspectives around campus. In her free time, she likes to read, play volleyball, run track, and spend time with friends.

Latest from Teacher Features